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The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Ten questions for Steny Hoyer

The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Good morning. TGIF. Tips: Thanks for waking up with us, and enjoy the weekend.

🚨: “Republican leaders forged an agreement this week to potentially fund a challenger to Rep. Liz Cheney in Wyoming, and party members are expected to formally condemn her for her work on the Jan. 6 committee [today], an unprecedented rebuke of an incumbent member of Congress,” our colleague Josh Dawsey reports.

  • “As the party met in Salt Lake City this week, the leaders of the Wyoming GOP privately signed a special rule that would allow the national party to financially support Harriet Hageman, Cheney’s primary challenger. The rule officially recognizes Hageman as the presumptive nominee for the seat.”

On the Hill

Steny Hoyer on his bout with covid, what he's reading and his closest Republican friend

Ten Questions for … House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.): We chatted with the longest-serving House Democrat about what he's reading, the Republicans he'll miss when they retire and Tom Brady's best year ever. This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

The Early: You announced earlier this week that you had covid. How are you feeling?

Hoyer: I feel fine. Tuesday I tested positive. The next morning I felt like I had a head cold. Not a bad head cold. I wasn’t sneezing, wasn’t coughing, didn't have a sore throat. And it's better today. I still have a little nasal congestion. But it hasn’t been bad. And I credit that to the vaccine and the booster.

The Early: You won a victory last month when the Supreme Court declined to hear House Republicans' challenge to the proxy voting system you helped put in place early in the pandemic. Do you think the system has been abused at all — such as when nine Republicans voted by proxy while at a political event on the border with Donald Trump?

Hoyer: Look, I don't think either side can throw stones at the other on this, because obviously we adopted it for covid reasons. Did some people use the proxy vote because for whatever reasons they couldn't get to the floor or didn't want to get to the floor? Yes, I think on both sides of the aisle, that's correct. But, frankly, has it made any difference? Absolutely not.

The Early: Who is your closest friend on the other side of the aisle?

Hoyer: [Sen.] Roy Blunt [(R-Mo.)]. Roy Blunt was the whip, and the leader for a while, when he was in the House. Roy Blunt likes to say ‘Steny and I vote together all the time when there are at least 425 other people voting the same way.’ [Laughs.] And of course what he means by that is, ‘When there's no opposition and we're all voting alike, Steny and I vote alike. But other times we mostly don't vote alike.’ And that's true. But what Roy and I have in common — we have respect for one another. We tell one another the truth. If Roy told me he was gonna do something, I knew he was gonna do it. And I think he would say the same thing about me.

The Early: You must be sad he’s retiring.

Hoyer: I really am. He's the kind of Republican we need. We need Republicans who are thoughtful and are not cowed by Donald Trump or anybody else. We're losing some really good Republicans from the House and from the Senate.

The Early: Which other Republicans are you disappointed to see retire?

Hoyer: [Rep.] John Katko [(R-N.Y.)]. He reached a deal with [Rep.] Bennie Thompson [(D-Miss.)], a very reasonable deal, on setting up a bipartisan oversight committee to look at Jan. 6. [Rep. Adam] Kinzinger [(R-Ill.)]. Now [Rep. Liz] Cheney [(R-Wyo.)] is running [for reelection] and I hope she wins. But Kinzinger just decided that he couldn't do it. So he's leaving. I think that's a loss to the country, and a loss to the Republican Party's mainstream.

The Early: What was the last book you finished? And what do you plan to read next?

Hoyer: The last book I finished was a small book, a wonderful book by Admiral [William] McRaven. He wrote a book called “The Hero Code.” I read that going to and from the memorial service for [former Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [(D-Nev.)], who was a friend of mine from 1962 to the day he died. What I'm starting to read now, and I’m just starting to read it, is “Master of the Game,” by Martin Indyk. Martin Indyk was our ambassador to Israel. I'm going over to Israel at the end of the month, and so I started reading this book.

The Early: When the New York Times asked you about a term limits proposal for House Democratic leaders in 2018, you responded, “Is Tom Brady too old at 41 to be quarterback?”

Hoyer: I was pretty prescient, wasn’t I? [Laughs.] I forgot that quote. You know, I'm not for term limits. I’m for the voter deciding, whether the voter is my constituents or whether it's my colleagues. Making it some arbitrary limit — there's some people at 50 who ought to be defeated. And there's some people, I would suggest, at 75 or 85 who [shouldn’t]. Everybody was saying, ‘Tom Brady, 41, oh, boy, gotta get rid of him, he’s too old.’ And he had his best year ever at 44.

The Early: Given that Brady just retired I thought it might be a good time to ask whether you plan to remain majority leader next year.

Hoyer: Yes, I do. If people think — and I hope the members do — that I've been effective and that I work hard and that I have their interests in mind and work on their behalf, then I would hope to be reelected majority leader. 

The Early: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Tuesday that the Build Back Better Act was “dead.” What do you see as a path forward for that bill at this point?

Hoyer: Well, that's what everybody quoted, but then he quickly added thereafter — what he meant was the bill that came from the House was not something that he could support and that therefore it would not be viable. I don't think he meant — and I think he made it clear that he did not mean — that there weren't significant parts of the bill that he has in the past said he is for.

The Early: To steal a question that New York magazine used to ask New Yorkers: Who is your favorite Marylander, living or dead, real or fictional?

Hoyer: Two of my daughters live in Maryland. Three of my grandchildren live in Maryland. Four of my great-grandchildren live in Maryland. They're all my favorites. But leaving it in the political environment, I was elected to the state Senate at the age of 27 in 1966. And a young fella, [23] years of age, was elected to the House of Delegates. His name was Ben Cardin. [Sen.] Ben Cardin [(D-Md.)] is my example of a public official with high integrity, absolutely honest, brilliant legislator and the courage of his convictions. So I would say Ben.

Democrats push bipartisan manufacturing bill to better compete with China

Don't call it the China bill: House Democrats are working to pass legislation as soon as today intended to bolster American manufacturing and strengthen the country's strained supply chains. Lawmakers have pitched the $250 billion bill as a way to compete with China — but Hoyer said that referring to the legislation as the “China bill,” as some reporters have, is selling it short.

“This bill is about much more than competition with China,” Hoyer, who has championed some of the ideas in the bill for years, said in an interview. “It's about how America will be resilient, self-sufficient and will not be subject to the whims of other countries and will not be as vulnerable to supply-side breakdowns."

The Senate passed its own version of the bipartisan legislation back in June, 68-32. The House bill differs from the Senate one, meaning lawmakers will need to hash out a compromise if it passes — which Hoyer said Democrats will hustle to do.

“The administration wants it signed as soon as possible,” he said. “[Senate Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer wants that, [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi wants that. I think the urgency of inflation, supply-side challenges, competitiveness challenges, self-sufficiency challenges — the urgency of all those matters, I think, lead to really demanding that we do this as quickly as possible.”

A viral Instagram account has become a safe space for anonymous testimonials about workplace culture on Capitol Hill

The call is coming from inside the Capitol: “Concerns about low pay, hostile work environments and racial and gender discrimination have gripped Capitol Hill over the past week as an Instagram account called ‘Dear White Staffers’ has posted hundreds of testimonials from current and former aides that tell a dispiriting story about what it’s like to work in the halls of Congress,” our colleague Marianna Sotomayor reports.

  • “Our federal laws are being written and edited by folks [meanwhile] we can’t pay enough to EAT and pay RENT??,” one anonymous responder mused after reading scores of complaints.
  • “I’m just waiting to get a better offer and I’m out. this work is not sustainable and I’m done draining myself for minimal successes,” one submission read.
  • “I have been on the Hill for 10 years and don’t have the courage yet to share my experiences, but there is power in numbers and watching these stories has been sadly validating,” one admitted.

“The flood of testimonials tell a similar story about lawmakers singled out as bad bosses who are unrealistically demanding, expect staff to meet their every need immediately, without thanks or acknowledgment, and don’t interact with low-level stuff much — and if they do, it’s often to complain about something,” Sotomayor writes.

  • “One testimony talked about meetings where members ate lunch but staffers were required to stand with their backs against the wall, and not allowed to eat or sit.”
  • “Another claimed that a member once asked them ‘if they wanted to be a postal worker for the rest of [their] life’ because they delivered an envelope on the House floor.”
  • “One staffer shared that a member threw a pair of reading glasses at them after bringing the wrong pair.”

The Media

Weekend reeeads: 


Happening today: The Opening Ceremony for the 2022 Winter Olympics ⛷️ Coverage starts at 6:30 a.m. ET.

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